Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Solo vacations

I'm no stranger to traveling and vacationing alone...since my husband's death four plus years ago it's been the norm for me. In this particular resort in Costa Rico I'm convinced that I am the only person not connected to spouse, lover, family. Normally I'm not over sensitive to an awareness that solo travelers tend to be in the minority...particularly women of a certain age and then some. Villas Sol's clientele is over 70% native Costa Rican with the norteno contingent very much in a minority. It's what I like...I don't travel to recreate a 'little USA' wherever I am...I travel to broaden my mind and gain insight into other cultures. Costa Rican's are very family oriented , hence my standing out like a sore thumb here. The women are openly friendly towards me...especially those with young children...maybe I have a grandmother aura hovering above me! Between my atrocious Spanish and their far superior English we have fractured conversation that invariably leads to a polite enquiry as to the whereabout of my spouse. My response leads to much hand wringing and hugs.
In my youth I went boldly forth back-pack in place and traveled a great deal of the world solo...for a young person there were no raised eyebrows; now it's different and I feel that my solo state causes anxiety in some circles. Canadians I have met here are friendly and inclusive as are some of the younger US couples but US couples my own age appear to be wary of the single female traveller. Wonder why? it reminds me somewhat of divorce in my early forties...the way in which the jointly held circle of 'friends" dissipated as though divorce were a contagious disease. I read somewhere once that divorce is contagious...that in groups of friends, one couple divorcing leads to others. strange society we live in.
I've long fought against singles' supplements in travel; the hotel that charges more for one than for two deal. I've not encountered any of that discrimination here but the subtle avoidance of a woman traveling alone is obvious. I conjure up the whispered conversations "wonder why she's alone...probably divorced...." for my part I prefer to be absolutely at ease and offer no explanation for my single state unless someone asks. I don't have any hesitation about eating alone and I don't hide behind a book. I've tried a new tactic this trip...making eye-contact and not being deterred - interesting that it's usually the North American men who respond and open conversation...once that barrier is broken, the women join in. I guess we still have a long way to go.
I don't gravitate towards other single travelers...I figure that adds to the stigma.
Still on my balcony overlooking the pacific and thinking wearily about the flight home tomorrow - if only instant transportation were available.

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